Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert
Deciding on how we will operate as councillors as the dust settles
So Lara and I had a chat about how to work together as ward partners. There’s more adjustment for me than I had thought about. For one thing, I have a ward which is less than half the size of my old one and with a different emphasis in terms of the issues it throws up. For another, I have an energetic and creative new team-mate who has very different strengths to those of my former chums. I’m quite excited about how we will make this work but it will take a little bit of getting used to. It’s tempting for both of us to follow all the issues that arise, a bit like football used to be played at school when I was 9 – 22 boys all chasing the ball madly (to be fair, I was often in goal on the grounds that I made a useful static barrier, and it was really 20 boys chasing). Much better if we bring a bit of structure to the team, and we’re beginning to explore that.
Of course, either or both of us may have roles in the council beyond the ward and that will have an influence on how we work. We won’t know that until probably next week when the dust begins to settle after the exertions of a new leader setting up his administration.
On Saturday morning councillors from the three Brentford wards sat in what once might have been a smoke-filled room but is now the pristine and unpolluted atmosphere of The Verdict. We wanted to sort out how we will cooperate across the three wards, given that most of our residents think they live in Brentford rather than Brentford West, or East, or Syon. We decide we’d like to have a combined surgery session in the town centre (which is actually Syon and Brentford Lock ward), probably once a month, and to continue with individual ward surgeries on another day of the month. In our case we are planning to do our surgeries in the Library.
It's great to have a team of seven working together – we will also include Amy, who although her ward is called Chiswick Riverside, also covers a sizeable chunk of Brentford.
In the afternoon I cycled over to Hanworth Air Parc leisure centre, partly because there was a launch of a new cycling training service, and partly because I wanted to join a ride with Hounslow Cycling. It was fantastic to see how many people had attended the cycle training - everyone from toddlers to pensioners, and I’m so pleased we can offer this service. Its continuation is a bit precarious as the funding largely comes from TfL and if you’ve been paying attention you’ll be aware that TfL funding is currently a political football. One hopes that, now the council elections are out of the way, the government might take a more grown-up stance on the matter. At the moment their approach reminds me of when I was 9 (see above). Mind you, I was hoping for the same after the Mayoral elections last year but that didn’t happen. Time will tell.
After all the excitement and activity of the election and the count, life seems relatively dull these days. Monday was a blank day in my diary, though there are always things to do.
On Tuesday I was bought lunch (duly declared as I reckon it was £27) at the Hare and Hounds by a contact from back in my days as Chair of Thamesbank Credit Union. Many years ago we piloted a scheme with the council to support people who were in need of a loan and who we were trying to protect from loan sharks. Unfortunately that council partnership never really took off but my contact (who is head of the workers’ co-op that provides admin services to Thamesbank and other Credit Unions) is eager to try again. Schemes are running in other parts of London and they do really help people who are in precarious financial circumstances. Pleased to hear that my old Credit Union is taking on a lot of new members and turning a surplus – it will be a godsend to some as the cost of living crisis bites harder.
Talking of precarious, later on Tuesday we had a FoodBox trustees meeting. Everything is on a reasonably even keel, though donations are still down and demand still up, and we don’t expect matters to get better anytime soon. We are also mindful of the desire of some local residents to regain their community centre which FoodBox currently occupies, but viable alternatives are hard to find.
After that, I attended an online session with Hounslow’s Monitoring Officer – the one who is responsible for ensuring we obey the rules of public life – about the standards that are expected of us. Important to revise these, even though nothing really has changed since previous terms.
On Wednesday my engagement was with the Lampton Leisure board. I am now really acting as an interim as the Lampton shareholder representative as we will not know for some days yet who is to form the new cabinet and what the roles will be. Lampton has its challenges, trying to balance very high inflation with the desire to offer ever-improving services, and with the cost of living crisis likely to threaten membership numbers. In its favour, the offering to members is very competitive and the council has made big investments recently to reduce carbon footprint in the centres and the associated energy bills, with solar panels and air source heat pumps and the like. Working against that Lampton has been repairing equipment like air conditioners that haven’t worked for years: but air conditioners are energy-hungry when they work and are switched on!
Today, I’m off on a day trip to Waltham Forest to look at an eco show home and learn about a regeneration scheme they have done on one of their estates. Run out of time so I’ll end this now.
Cllr Guy Lambert
May 19, 2022